Dame Joan Alston Sutherland, OM, AC, DBE (born 7 November 1926) is an Australian dramatic coloratura soprano noted for her contribution in the renaissance of the bel canto repertoire in the late 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
One of the most remarkable female opera singers of the 20th century, she was dubbed La Stupenda by a La Fenice audience in 1960 after an Alcina performance. She possessed a voice of beauty and power, combining extraordinary agility, accurate intonation, a splendid trill and a tremendous upper register, although music critics often complained about the imprecision of her diction. Her friend Luciano Pavarotti once called Sutherland the "Voice of the Century", while Montserrat Caballé described the Australian's voice as being like "heaven".
Joan Sutherland was born in Sydney, Australia, where she attended St Catherine's School. As a child, she listened to and copied the singing exercises of her mother, a mezzo-soprano who had studied but never considered making a career. Sutherland was 18 when she started studying voice seriously with John and Aida Dickens. She made her concert debut in Sydney, as Dido in Purcell's Dido and Æneas, in 1947. In 1951, she made her stage debut in Eugène Goossens's Judith. In 1951, after winning Australia's most important competition, the Sun Aria, she went to London to further her studies at the Opera School of the Royal College of Music with Clive Carey. She was engaged by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as a utility soprano, and made her debut there on 28 October 1952, as the First Lady in The Magic Flute, followed in November by a few performances as Clotilde in Bellini's Norma, with Maria Callas as Norma.